Wednesday, 22 December 2021

muskelspiel

Born this day in 1867 (†1927) in the village Burkhardtsdorf in the western edge of Upper Lusatia, Osmar Heinrich Volkmar Schindler, demonstrating skill as an artist early on was with the support of his uncle enrolled at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts where after his education in portraiture and travels in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium developed a signature style that mixed elements of Impressionism and Art Nouveau. In 1900, Schindler was invited back to the academy and given a professorship. Better known for his murals and interior decor for both secular and religious buildings of the fin de siècle throughout Saxony, works on display include David and Goliath, landscapes of the Sächsischen Schweiz and Lake Garda, as well as this muscle-flexing study that has the undivided attention of the art class.

Friday, 26 November 2021

7x7

limerent limerick: help in recognising unhealthy obsessions and how to work one’s way out of intrusive think—hopefully through bawdy rhymes 

there and back again: Gene Deitch’s animated short The Hobbit—the first such adaptation  

roll for perception: a collection of resources, a florilegium from a Society for Creative Anachronism member for the LARP community—via Mx van Hoorn’s cabinet of hypertext curiosities  

avenue of the sphinxes: a restored promenade between Luxor and Karnak opened with fanfare  

opiate for the masses: drug use in Antiquity 

mlhavý: Martin Rak’s fog-draped forests in Saxon-Bohemia—see previously 

here’s mud in your eye: a select glossary of beer and imbibing terminology—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump


 

Sunday, 31 October 2021

meine propositiones

According to most sources, Augustinian monk Martin Luther (see previously here, here and here—not a fave, just problematic), upset with leadership in the Catholic Church—chiefly over the indulgences racket—posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Palace Church of All Saints on this day in 1517, setting off the Reformation Movement in Germany.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

dor nischl

The colossal stylised bust of philosopher and historian Karl Marx (previously) sculpted by Soviet realist Lev Efimovich Kerbel for the city formerly and presently known as Chemnitz (redesignated as Karl-Max-Stadt for the year of the revolutionary in 1953) was dedicated on this day in 1971 before an assembly of a quarter of a million attendees. The wall directly behind the visage and plinth is inscribed with the famous phrase from the Communist Manifesto “Workers of the World, unite!” in German, Russian, French and English by graphic artist Helmut Humann.  Locally referred to as the above Mitteldeutsch colloquialism for head or skull and used as a backdrop for much propaganda and pageantry under the East German government, the symbol was not without controversy, but was preserved while many other monuments to Soviet heroes and ideals were dismantled. After reunification, the city of Köln even offered to buy the head in order that it be saved from destruction, while residents were wrestling with the recent past and deciding to restore their city’s former name. Ultimately, it was decided to keep this and select vestiges of times past, which can still be a focus of the here and now.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

they are not long—the days of wine and roses

Though separated by a considerable distance in the north and the southern part of modern Germany, it’s interesting to note, via the always engrossing Futility Closet, the kindred relationship between the oldest known rosebush and the oldest known uncorked bottle of wine. The Millennium Rose (der Tausendjähriger Rosenstock) grows in the apse of the Hildesheimer Dom—dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, and is a non-domesticated variety known as the wild dog, Rosa cainina. Hardier by degrees that cultivated garden varieties that usually only thrive for decades, this especially long-lived specimen is legendary, with Louis the Pious (Ludwig der Fromme), heir to the Holy Roman Empire after the death of his father Charlemagne, happened upon this rosebush after becoming separated from his hunting party. Sacred to the Saxon goddess Hulda, the lost emperor sought shelter there but offering a prayer to the Virgin Mary through a reliquary he carried with him. Ludwig rested and upon waking, he found his icon irretrievably stuck among the branches—taking this as a sign from the pagan goddess that she was to be replaced in veneration. The emperor’s entourage found him and Ludwig pledged that his city should be founded in this spot and constructed the cathedral around the rosebush. In March of 1945, Hildesheim was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid which razed the cathedral as well. The rose’s extensive root system was intact and began to flourish again the next season as the city was rebuilt. The Speyer wine bottle (Römerwein) was recovered from a Roman tomb outside of the city (see also) in the mid 1800s and since dated to the fourth century of the common era. This grave good is contained in a glass vessel and is one-and-a-half litres in volume, two modern standard bottles and is shaped like an amphora with dolphins ornamenting the handles. There is no intention of opening it.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

6x6

berggeschrei: Saxon princes collected, modelled miniature mountains and enjoyed miner cos-play 

#oddlysatisfying: the hypnotic and self-soothing qualities of visual ASMR  

it’s not a cult thing: an interview with the real estate agent selling this ‘sexy funeral Goth house’ in Baltimore—via Super Punch  

erard square action: a tool that measures a piano key’s up- and down-weight  

slamilton: a basketball musical of Space Jam meshed with Hamilton—see previously—that works better than it should, via Waxy  

den hügel hinauf: Amanda Gorman’s inspirational US presidential inaugural poem (see also) will be published in German

Saturday, 20 March 2021

thomanerchor

Confirmed by decree issued by Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV before the Frankfurt Reichstag, Leipzig’s celebrated and well-known boys choir was founded on this day in 1212. In past times adjacent to the school and campus, the choir performs in the storied Thomaskircheamong the oldest continuous cultural institutions in Europe, its members and directors have produced many musical luminaries, including Johann Sebastian Bach, who served as cantor from 1723 to 1750.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

helige mathilde von sachen

Patroness of, among other things, disappointing children, Saint Matilda of Ringelheim (see previously) is venerated on this day on the occasion of her death in Quedlinburg in 968 (*892), acclaimed for her charitable acts and strong sense of justice. Despite her status as a king-maker and raising ostensibly, widow of Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony, regnant and politically savvy in her own right, her eldest son Otto I who restored the Holy Roman Empire, Bruno, Archbishop of Köln, Gerberga Queen of France through marriage to Louis IV, Hedwig, mother of Hugh Capet and perhaps tellingly Henry, Jr. made Duke of Bavaria and called the quarrelsome, matters soon descended into petty squabbles over land, inheritance and alliances. Accused of mismanagement and sent into exile with Emperor Otto staking claim to his mother’s possessions, Matilda (from Old High German, incidentally, for the Mightiest in Battle) and it remains a point of contention the exact nature of these feuds and whether the family was ever reconciled. Despite or rather because of this administrative embargo, Matilda focused her efforts on establishing more monastic communities for women on her estates, sought and granted ecclesiastical immediacy and papal privileges for all convents in East Francia.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

zusammenleben

We really enjoyed pursuing the extensive portfolio of images captured of East Germany in the photography of Ute Mahler, who embarked in 1974 for a decade’s long mission to preserve and convey his fellow friends, neighbours and strangers as they were authentically cool and collected—both candid and posed—and unmediated by geopolitics. Much more curated by the Guardian at the link above and at the on-line gallery exhibition hosted by La Maison De L’Image Documentaire.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

the mind-body problem

Pioneering experimental psychologist, physicist and philosopher who taught at the University of Leipzig and is considered the founder of the branch of study known as psychophysics—a hybrid discipline that researchers stimulation and perception—Gustav Theodor Fechner (*1801 – †1887) has been honoured on this day since 1985 by the academic community on this anniversary of Fechner awaking from a dream with an epiphany, an insight into the relationship between material and mental sensations that changed the course of scientific thinking.  

In 1834, Fechner was appointed adjunct professor of physics and focused on his early fascination with colour theory—the effect named for him—and the optical illusion of colours in the spinning black and white patterns (see also) of the Benham top, but within five years had severely damaged his eyes, forcing him to change disciplines, leading to crucial and influential breakthroughs in our outlook on the way we experience the world and interpret our perceptions. Later in 1871 Fechner conducted the first study of phenomenon we’ve come to recognise as synaesthesia (previously) and studied the corpus callosum and bilateral symmetry of the brain, correctly assessing the outcome of thought-experiments not conducted until a century later.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

zwiebelzopf

Visiting a small harvest festival nearby held on Germany Unity Day, H and I looked for some autumn accents for the house and found several stalls selling traditional onion braids (Zwiebelzöpfe). 

Sometimes also incorporating garlic bulbs, the braids adorned craftily with dried wild flowers were not customarily only for decorative and storage, preservative purposes but moreover for the notion that the power of the talisman would stave off illness and harm from hearth and home. Right now we can all use all the help we can muster. Singly, onions were worn as amulets in medieval times to ward off the plague, and a New Year’s Eve custom (divination from onions is called cromniomancysee also) in various regions, especially in the Erzgebirge, called for the dicing of an onion into twelve sections and sprinkling each bowl with salt to forecast the precipitation for each month of the year to come as the moisture drawn out of each section by the next morning would predict that month’s rainfall.

Monday, 3 February 2020

gregg ruled

Via Everlasting Blört, we are directed to this wonderful and growing archive of near-contemporary, vintage and antique children’s school notebooks from around the world.
Reviewing the scholarship, penmanship, inner-thoughts (fights, field-trips, crushes, detentions, cataclysmic embarrassments that are all relatable) and doodles of pupils from all sorts of backgrounds is fascinating, and the sponsoring organization invites the public to contribute, donating their own or volunteering to translate and transcribe.

Monday, 2 December 2019

aus tradition grenzen überschreiten

With illustrious alumni including H, Angela Merkel, Robert Schumann, Friedrich Nietzsche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Tycho Brahe, the University of Leipzig is one of the world’s most storied and preeminent institutions of higher learning and second longest in existence only to that of Heidelberg (1386) in Germany and was officially founded on this day in 1409 to provide a new alma mater to German-speaking academics that had fled the reformation movement agitated by Jan Hus in Prague with the endorsement of the papacy.

To ensure the university’s independence and scholastic freedom from state influence, the founders gifted the institution first three then a total of eight nearby villages as sources of revenue, an arrangement that continued through the nineteenth century. Pictured here is the Paulinerkirche, which served as the university’s anchor since the beginning, until its demolition by the government of East Germany in 1968 but rebuild in modernist style in 2012 as the Paulinum (das Aula und Universitätskirche Sankt Pauli) with the former dormitory high rise—meant to suggest an open book, now City-Hochhaus beside. The above motto translates, (from) a tradition of crossing borders and was one of the first institutions to allow female guests to audit classes, eventually awarding its first doctor of jurisprudence degree to a Russian graduate student called Anna Yevreinova in 1873 and during the transition period of the decline and eventual dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, many from the newly independent republics turned to Leipzig as an administrative and educational model.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

herrnhuter stern

We’re getting ready to hang up our Moravian stars as the first festoonery of the season and the process of constructing the lantern and piecing together the paper cones is always an engaging ritual.
The decoration and design originated in the 1830s in a Moravian church (see also) boarding school for boys near the town of Görlitz to impart students with a lesson in geometry—the twenty-six-sided star being called a rhombicuboctahedron. Around 1880, an alumnus of the Pædagogium made the stars and their instruction manuals for sale in his bookstore and his son went on to open a factory in 1897 in the village of Herrnhut under the auspices of the church that makes and distributes the stars to this day.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

zipfelbund

Since the inception of the holiday, the date of formal reunification rather than events leading up to it chosen in 1990, the chief celebrations have cycled through several host cities, usually state capitals.
Wiesbaden was the setting of 1999’s festivities and created the Compass Confederation, settlements that represent the geographical extremes (see also) of Germany:
the cardinal points being List on the Island of Sylt in the North, Selfkant in the West, Görlitz in the East and Oberstdorf in the South, the towns honoured annually as co-celebrants. Though it took decades longer for the German map to have these extremes and present borders, the most westerly municipality of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Selfkant, was annexed by the Netherlands as war reparations in 1949. The allocation of this single district was the much diminished outcome of an original demand for Aachen, Köln, Münster and Osnabrück, pared down significantly when the Dutch failed to garner support from the US for it. After three years of negotiations at the Hague, the territory was returned to West Germany (see also the Kleine Wiedervereinigung) in August 1963—with the exception of a hill and surrounding glade called Duivelsberg/Teufelsberg which the Netherlands retains and maintains as a nature reserve.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

nebra skydisc

On this day in 1999, near the eponymous village in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt two tomb-raiders discovered the Skydisc (Himmelsscheibe) of Nebra (previously), a four-thousand year old bronze artefact with inlaid gold symbols interpreted as the sun and lunar crescent and a cluster of stars that correspond to the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters) with an arch at the edge thought to represent the Chariot of the Sun, the band of the Milky Way or a rainbow.
Unlike anything else so far discovered dated to the era, it was originally thought to be a forgery but is now accepted as authentic. Unlicensed and prospecting with a metal detector, the amateur treasure hunters that found the prehistoric cache, which included swords, a hatchet and some jewellery besides, knew that their find would be considered looting and the hoard was traded on the black market through several collectors until the going rate exceeded a million Deustche Mark and the public became aware. The Nebra Skydisc is now on display in the Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte (the State Museum of Prehistory) in Halle.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

burg stolpen or under the rainbow

H and I decided we would let our vacation be at the mercy of the weather and it started raining without pause from midnight Monday onward, so after decamping, soggy, we started on our way back, making a detour to see Burg Stolpen, the town and a thirteenth century castle at the foot of a mountain of the same name and hewn out of basalt columns.
The mineral was first classified and described at this particularly rich quarry by local natural philosopher Georgius Agricola in a 1556 treatise.
The pictures are of the residence and prison of lady-in-waiting and mistress of Augustus II the Strong (der Starke) Anna Constantian von Brockdorff—eventually styled Countess of Cosel (Reichsgräfin von Cosel, *1680 - †1765)—who eventually earned the displeasure of her lover, imperial elector and king of Poland by her advocacy for the rights of Polish subjects.
Anna was banished from court and placed under house arrest in the tower for just under fifty years.
Adaptations of her biography in the 1980s rehabilitated her image and revived interest in the life and times of this defiant and inconvenient woman.
We couldn’t find any historic marker in the town but Stolpen was also the birthplace, we learned, of an arguably more famous—at least in contemporary terms in the West—quartet of siblings: the Doll family.
Born with the surname Schneider at the turn of the century up to the outbreak of World War I and first adopting and performing under the name Earle—after their manager and agent that brought them to America, Gracie, Harry, Daisy and Tiny were a formidable force as a sideshow and then as a screen act—always working together and insisting that they all have roles.
Terrors of Tiny Town and Tod Browning’s Freaks, all four were also Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz, with Harry (*1902 – †1985) performing as a representative of the Lollipop Guild.
Commercial fortunate allowed them to retire comfortably and purchase an estate in Sarasota, Florida—including a compound called the Doll House were all lived together, complete with custom furniture build to their scale.  Something strikes me in common about their stories—one a very vocal inmate of the town and others sent away without regard because of their difference.  What do you think?

Monday, 27 May 2019

verkehrsmittel

Among our favourite things to discover on holiday are examples of vernacular, sometimes super-antiquated public transportation and in the Sächsische Schweiz, H and I got to sample plenty on our way to Bad Schandau through the Kirnitzsch (Křinice, a tributary of the Elbe) Valley.
A train, a ferry and steamboat were ultimately involved to bring us to an electric street car established in 1898 to transport guests of the sanitaria. The terminal ended with a guesthouse under the ægis of an artificial waterfall but there was the chance to hike up to the summit.
The peak with its natural sandstone archway and system of caves and hollows to explore became known as the Kuhstall, as this had to reach shelter became a favourite spot for residents to hide their livestock for safekeeping during the Thirty Years’ War and hidden from Swedish interlopers. The funicular is no longer the only option for traversing these nine kilometres but certainly the recommended mode of travel.


Sunday, 26 May 2019

of bastions and batteries

Constituted in part from some of the last remains of a medieval fortification (a bastion, the defensive ring around Felsenburg Neurahen) but mostly a series of naturally occurring but artfully linked observation platforms, the bridge located high in the sandstone mountains (die Elbsandsteingeberger) of Saxony represents one of the first purpose-built tourist attractions, having existed in this form for some two hundred years.
H and I recently had the chance to hike around and explore some of the trails in this area, known as the Saxon Switzerland, der Sächsische Schweiz, and take advantage of the accommodations that developed over the decades and informed what we have come to expect—for better or worse, from a destination, its renown presaged by romanticised depictions in travel guides and paintings—though nature conservancy also went hand in hand with promoting tourism and now is the centrepiece of an expansive national park and preserve.  Click on the images to enlarge.

Also not failing to deliver, next we toured the Fortress Königstein, located on the towering promontory that dominated our campsite, as we’d appreciate later. A centuries’ old enclosed ensemble asserts its control over the Elbe, forming the one of the largest fort in Europe, located on a tabletop hill (Tafelberg).

Casements and batteries aside, the Königstein owes its long existence and many iterations to a reliable water supply won through an incredibly deep well (one hundred and fifty two metres, excavated by hand with two horse power and the second deepest in Europe) that allowed the occupants of the fortress to survive and outlast what would otherwise be a crippling siege and a matter of waiting the defenders out.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

palimpsest

The discovery of the new/old painting by Old Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (previously) has unfolded in a very captivating way that makes sleuths and amateur art historians out of us all.
Early, unauthorised x-ray examinations of his Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window (Brieflezend meisje bij het venster) among the trove of the then recently repatriated treasures of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen of Dresden—taken to the Soviet Union as spoils of war we returned to boost residents’ morale and curried the interest of Western scholars. The analysis revealed a Cupid (like these other famous putti who also reside in the Dresden galleries) walled over and painted out of the image, in what was assumed over the ensuing decades after the initial discovery was an example of regrettable pentimenti.
Recent re-examination conclusively determines that the over-painting was not done by Vermeer himself and approximately two centuries later, so conservators have chosen to restore (shown in progress with the unrestored version above) the artist’s original vision, confident that the visual vernacular of figure on the wall is in keeping with the artist’s style and contributes something to his overall message, interpreted as the girl hoping to expand her horizons outside of her domestic sphere.